Cardinal Jose Policarpo has warned Portugese women about marrying Muslim men. According to Policarpo, marrying Muslim men leads to “a pile of troubles, that not even Allah knows where would end.” Policarpo added, “I know that if a young European of Christian background marries a Muslim, as soon as they go to his country, they’ll be subject to the regime of Muslim women. Just imagine it.
This is the most offensive utterance of interreligious hate I’ve heard since the Pope’s Orientalist insult to Muslims last year. Painting Muslim men as always foreign, brutally patriarchal, and “trouble” is a nicely-bundled mess of Islamophobia, xenophobia, racism, and sexism. Yes, sexism. Implying that all Muslim men are brutally patriarchal and painting a fear-mongering picture of how they’ll treat their wives (“subject[ing]” them to the “regime of women) is completely offensive and reductive.
But Policarpo’s statements offend Muslim women as well. His insinuation that a big, scary Muslim man would drag an unwitting, innocent (read: Catholic) Portuguese girl back to his terrifying brown (read: Muslim) homeland and “subject [her] to the regime of Muslim women” is astoundingly, jaw-droppingly insulting. This comment belies Policarpo’s ignorance of gender mores and women’s gains in predominately Muslim countries. While the fact that women heads of state and business magnates don’t cancel out violence that women and girls face in the same countries, it degrades the dignity of Muslim women to be a warning to non-Muslim women: “Don’t marry a Muslim man, you’ll end up like them.” (cue scary music)
It’s also a blow to interreligious and interracial marriages between Muslims and non-Muslims that have worked. I’m not saying bad things don’t happen (look at Phyllis Chesler!), but it’s not all burqas and honor killings (Queen Noor would probably agree with me). Policarpo’s statements are offensive precisely because they make these kinds of assumptions about Muslim men and women.